My Surprising Visit to the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok

My Surprising Visit to the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok

I don’t really remember my first market in Asia.  I know we walked through Chinatown during our first visit to Bangkok.  We found an alley way that was loaded with Chinese goods, crap from wall to wall, people everywhere, Eric towering over them all.  I could never lose him in the crowd.  I remember the excitement of walking the night market in Luang Prabang, Laos, enjoying the shopping but recognizing it was entirely touristy.  I remember my first tour of the wet market in Luang Prabang, with a chef who explained the various kinds of rice, strange meats, and different kinds of vegetables I was unfamiliar with. Typical travel writing always dictates that the way to understand the local culture is to walk through the local market.  And, to some extent that is true.  But, I have seen so many markets, and many of them are so similar, particularly in Southeast Asia.  In most tourist spots, the market has turned into something entirely inauthentic – the same collection of Chinese made goods, both clothing and toys for locals as well as the souvenirs that are ubiquitous across the region – each pretending to be a locally made artifact that explains something about the local culture.   I have wandered through numerous wet markets, the markets that sell the foods, fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish.  I have smelled them, I have walked carefully in my flip flops through the oozing goo on the floors. Until I live some place long enough where a trip to the market is necessary in order to buy my groceries, I don’t generally rush right...

Bangkok Tattoo

Our return to the big city was eagerly anticipated.  We had a laundry list of things to do and accomplish for our week in Bangkok.  In addition to conquering the city, and trying out more street food, we wanted to test out what it would be like to live in Bangkok – it is perpetually on our list of possible new homes. We rented an apartment for the week in a luxury high rise.  I wanted to have another productive week.  I wanted to take advantage of the gym in our apartment building, including its yoga studio, to keep in shape for my upcoming teacher training program.  I was thrilled to have not only a washing machine, but a dryer too!  Ah, the little things in life. In addition to food stops, toiletry purchasing, and trying to find a new bathing suit that actually fit me, I had some practical tasks to take care of.  I wanted to find a dentist to get my tooth that I broke in Bali more permanently fixed.  We wanted to try to get a 60 day visa for our return to Indonesia.  And, we got through a decent number of the items on our to do list.  We had a great first weekend, grabbing street food just outside our apartment building, against the advice of the apartment building’s front desk (“it is not safe”).  We learned the Skytrain system.  I bought a bathing suit (size 3XL).  We had drinks on Soi 11 with my new Twitter friend Scott Eddy.  We had dinner with our friend Max from Yangon, who was in town for...

How to Fly Air Asia Island Transfer Service

We are Air Asia frequent fliers.  We have gotten some great deals on flights.  I was surprised, however, to hear about the Air Asia Island Transfer Service, which allows you to pay for a flight, bus ticket, and ferry, all at once to help you get to various islands throughout Thailand.  Although a little hesitant to book it, we figured it was worth a shot and made our way to Koh Phangan, a small island close to Koh Samui By Air We left our taxi after arriving at the “Air Asia” Airport in Bangkok, Don Mueang.  We checked in for our domestic flight with no problems and a short line.  We were extremely early as surprisingly we hit zero traffic at 8 am coming from our hotel.   We were, as expected, asked about our destination, and I honestly had no idea.  I blurted out Koh Phangan, but knew that was not it.  There is no airport on the island.  As Eric tried to find the name of the airport (Nakhon Si Thammarat), the agent used our passports to find our flight.   Although our luggage tag listed Phangan (Thong Sala Pier) as the final destination, the agent informed us that we needed to collect our bags at the airport and follow the signs to the bus that would take us to the ferry pier.   By Land When we arrived in N.S. Thammarat, there was a large Air Asia connect sign right next to the baggage claim.  We showed them our boarding pass from the flight, they checked our name off, and gave us a little sticker for our...

Enjoying a Productive Paradise on Koh Phangan Thailand

Sometimes it is the beach, the surf, and the weather, that make a beach special.  More often, though, it is the people you meet that make it truly memorable.  A feel of a place that makes it stay with you.  That makes you not want to leave.  This was the case on Koh Phangan Thailand. We checked into Shambhala for a week on a Thai beach, staying in a rustic little bungalow.  I was looking for some serious hammock time.  After our week on Gili Air, though, I was a little restless and wondered whether I could appreciate another week with no TV, no internet, and little human connection aside from Eric.  Ultimately, the lack of TV was of little concern.  It generally is not a problem for us.  Neither was the internet.  Shambhala had fantastic internet and we settled in for a super productive week.  The complete opposite of Gili. Digital Nomads Most normal people head to a boutique bungalow property on an island like Koh Phangan for a little rest and relaxation – a chance to get away from the stress of the real world.   But, I like my “real” world, and don’t generally feel stressed (be jealous my friends).  I am convinced that we were the most productive guests to ever stay at Shambhala in its four years of existence.  One of the guests even said to me “you guys are always working.”  And it was true.   We woke in the morning, made our way to the combo restaurant and outdoor living area.  We grabbed two petite wooden tables, with a few triangle shaped Thai...

A Week in Shambhala – A Photo Essay

As part of our 6 week escape from Ubud, Bali, we explored three different beach areas of Southeast Asia.  The week on Gili Air did not go as planned.  I had high expectations for a good week on Koh Phangan, off the east coast of Thailand.  And, it worked out perfect. Koh Phangan’s big claim to fame are the monthly full moon parties.  About 20,000 young kids take over a small tropical island to drink, do drugs, have sex, and do whatever else young people do during an all night beach party.  I saw ads for half moon parties, pre-full moon parties, pool parties, and waterfall parties.  There was even an upcoming Biker Full Moon Party.  We planned our stay to leave the island a few days before the full moon.  I wanted nothing to do with the shenanigans that accompany the moon cycle.  I am too old for that.  There are also particular stretches of beach that are notorious for parties during the rest of the month, and some hostels that advertise their chill pool parties and happy hour specials.  That did not appeal to me either. Even though we were avoiding the full moon, I looked for a place to stay that was less party themed, and more quiet. And, I found it in Shambhala.   In Tibetan Buddhism, Shambhala is a sort of heaven on earth – a geographic place of peace, tranquility, and happiness.  And, these little bungalows overlooking the water were just that for us.  It was the complete opposite of Gili Air, not only because the bungalow was well built, the staff friendly,...

Why Bangkok Travel Still Intimidates Me

I have been to Bangkok numerous times.  This marks at least our 5th trip to the city.  You would think I would be an expert by now.  Instead, my arrival in this tourist mecca of Southeast Asia continues to instill nervousness and a little bit of fear.  Bangkok travel is something that continues to mystify me. I am comfortable in Singapore, it is hard not to be.  It is easy, with English speakers, clean, and accessible in every way.  Now, that I have spent more time in Kuala Lumpur I feel confident about getting around.  Again, though, it is a modern city, with decent English accessibility, and an easy to read language.  I have spent so much time in bustling Hanoi that it does not take me long to orient myself and find my favorite spot for a coffee, pho, or our favorite beer garden. But, Bangkok intimidates me still.   Bangkok was our first city in Southeast Asia, back in 2006.  Back when we had jobs and  I had a bright future in the law, we stayed at the Sheraton and the Peninsula, both located on the Chao Phraya River, which became our main road as we traversed the tourist sights of town, meandering through Chinatown, seeing the National Palace and the famous reclining Buddha.  We found a decent restaurant/spa near the Sheraton and ate several meals there.  It was where Eric fell in love with his favorite Thai dish – ground pork with basil and chili.   I loved everything about Thailand immediately – the Buddhist temples, the polite wai greeting, the reverence to the King, whose...